AP NEWS

Nursing home workers renew strike threats at the Capitol

May 1, 2019

HARTFORD — After a calling off a May 1 strike, 200 unionized nursing home workers gathered at the Capitol Wednesday to give lawmakers an ultimatum: raise their wages or face a new strike of 3,100 workers.

The workers of SEIU 1199 New England will reconvene on May 8 to decide whether they will order a new strike.

A new strike would most likely include 25 nursing homes throughout Connecticut that pay their workers through the state’s Medicaid funding, said Rob Baril, president of SEIU 1199 New England. The previous strike was planned for 20 nursing homes, impacting about 3,000 patients.

Their demand is a 4-percent increase in Medicaid funding in both of the next two fiscal years, or about $40 million more each year, part of which would be shouldered by the federal government, Baril said. That change would result in a 4-percent wage increase for nursing home workers, who have seen one 2-percent wage increase since 2015.

“People cannot live, cannot provide for their families, cannot put food on the table, cannot pay for the mortgage on raises where you are talking about a quarter to 30 cents over five years,” said Baril.

Careene Reid has worked at Trinity Hill Care Center in Hartford for 10 years and earns $15.12 an hour, she said. Her last raise was 27 cents.

Workers like Reid called off their May 1 strike last week because they received a letter from Gov. Ned Lamont indicating he would work to increase their pay and state funding for nursing homes.

But the legislature’s Appropriations Committee revealed their state spending plan Tuesday with no increase. That disappointed workers, who showed up force Wednesday and sat in on a meeting of the legislature’s tax policy committee to pressure lawmakers.

Baril reminded the workers — mostly black and Latino — of their political power and how they can use it to keep pro-union lawmakers in office.

“When we organize for elections in the fall, it matters,” he said.

emunson@hearstmediact.com; Twitter: @emiliemunson